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Monday, August 1, 2011

An Ode to a Restaurant - Woodlands Drive-in on Cathedral Road

Dear (s)
Restaurants range from unpretentious lunching or dining places catering to people working nearby, with simple food served in simple settings at low prices, to expensive establishments serving refined food. Needless to say that south Indians (a la Madrasis) are fond of food and people throng eateries where they feel they get delicacies of their choice and taste.
There have been many hotels catering to different connoisseurs  testing their taste buds.  Many have fallen on the way side within a few months of their appearance as hospitality is an industry which has to change to the ever changing needs of the customer.  Of course there would be many who want the same and some hotels do thrive on being the same old fashioned – nay serving the same food with the same taste.
In the present day Madras, there are not many restaurants where you can easily find a place to park your vehicle and dine.  There is something known as ‘drive-in’ a facility where one can literally drive in with an automobile for service. At a drive-in restaurant, for example, customers park their vehicles and are usually served by staff who walk out to take orders and return with food, encouraging diners to remain parked while they eat.  Madras uniquely had one – ‘the Woodlands drive-in’ – a very famous one at that.  

Madras had one is not a grammatical error………  The sad news is that the scenic WOODLANDS DRIVE IN is no more.  The drive that drove  Woodlands Drive-
in restaurant into a myriad hearts for years has been snuffed out.   This was perhaps the only  restaurant which had sprawling parking space and lot of greenery.  This stands closed  following a court verdict. The Madras High Court on Friday upheld a government decision to cancel its lease agreement.
This restaurant has been in existence from 1962 (much before most of us were born).  It was haunted by kollywood stars and those who wanted to see them.  The restaurant uniquely served food in the car and there was more than ample space for parking cars.  There was thick canopy of trees to add to the lustre. 
Another glory of the restaurant was – the (informal) meetings held by different groups.  There would be medical representatives and their elk discussing their sales pattern, targets and et al.  There would dreaming poets trying to pen out lyrics.  There would be informal groups chalking their plans out.  All after ordering something measly – sometimes as simple as a cup of coffee.  The hoteliers never forced them out.  People in groups would sit for long hours chatting various nuances of their trade.  Some considered the place lucky for taking business decision though their presence would not have added to the fortune of the management.
All that has become a thing of the past as  on Friday evening  the Madras High Court cancelled the lease agreement of the restaurant with Horticulture Society of Tamil Nadu, stopping visitors from coming into the premises with their vehicles, though the restaurant remained opened.

Now it is formally closed much to the chagrin of many chennaites.  Many hotels have come and some disappeared in between but this charm would haunt Chennaites for long.

With some sadness
S Sampathkumar

PS :   Circulated to my group of friends in Apr 2008 and posted  as it is on my blog today.

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